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`Telgi was trying to extend racket to Northeast'

By B.S. Ramesh

BANGALORE, APRIL 27. Tapping of the alleged telephone conversations between Abdul Karim Telgi, alias Karim Lala, the prime accused in the multi-crore stamp paper racket, and his associates, helped foil their plan to extend the racket to the north-east, according to sources in the Stamp Paper Investigation Team (STAMPIT).

The team claims to have tapped the speeches when Telgi was in jail. It filed a case in the Madivala police station in the city in 2002 in this regard. The tapes containing the transcribed conversations, now in the custody of the Bombay High Court, are likely to be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) shortly.

According to the sources, the tapes shed light on the manner in which Telgi and his associates tried to push fake stamp papers in large numbers in Chandigarh, Delhi and Kolkata. In one of the tapes, Telgi speaks to four of his associates in Chandigarh. The four, including Gopinath Nair, were arrested by the Chandigarh Police on July 28, 2002 and fake stamps valued at Rs. 2.3 crores seized from them.

Gopinath Nair was allegedly attempting to extend the racket to the north-east and he had mapped out a plan in this direction. His arrest and the team's sustained efforts thwarted the plan. The sources say that a large number of calls that Telgi made or received had been traced to his Delhi contacts, including Puran Singh, an inspector in the Delhi Police. The recordings helped the Delhi Police arrest four accused on October 5, 2002 and seize fake stamps worth Rs. 216 crores. Puran Singh initially came into contact with Telgi in his official capacity. The inspector allegedly helped Telgi in furthering the racket.

Telgi, sources say, was monitoring the fake stamp paper operations in Delhi, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal by talking to his associates through mobile phones even as he was in jail. In one of the tapes, he refers to an insurance firm in NOIDA, near Delhi, to which the gang had sold fake stamps valued at crores of rupees.

According to the sources, fake stamp papers were sold in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh through companies called "Sharp Enterprises" and "Citi Enterprises" located in Delhi. Telgi was also suspected of having opened an outlet in Lucknow called "Sneha Enterprises." The sources say some of Telgi's other calls had been to Mohammad Sayeed and Ashish Kumar Chakrovorthy. Investigation by the team revealed that while Telgi and Ram Ratan Soni, another accused, operated in and around Mumbai, Sayeed and Chakrovorthy were involved in the racket in Kolkata and neighbouring areas.

Telgi's conversations also helped the team crack down on the gang's Kerala operations. A native of Thrissur, Jacob Chacko, was arrested for his involvement in the racket.

Chacko, who was staying in Mumbai, had set up a fictitious firm "Sneha Enterprises" in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. Jacob often met Telgi while the latter was in the Central Jail, Bangalore. Intercepted messages between Telgi and Chacko helped the team scuttle the Kerala operations.

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